Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Saturday, 31 January 2009

Goodness Gracious Me writer dies

Cast of Goodness Gracious Me
Mr Sardana brought Asian comedy to the mainstream

Tributes have been paid to Emmy-award winning comedy writer Sharat Sardana who has died aged 40.

Mr Sardana helped create popular television programmes Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No. 42.

Actors Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar, who worked with him on both shows said they were "broken-hearted".

Mr Sardana died at Whipps Cross University Hospital in London on Tuesday. It is believed he had contracted a streptococcal infection.

Gifted writer'

Syal and Bhaskar said they were "stunned and completely broken hearted about Sharat's death".

They said: "He was not just a gifted writer and a long-standing colleague and friend.

"We were part of each other's extended families and losing him feels like losing a brother.

"There is so much he should have and could have done, though we're grateful and so very proud of what he achieved in his all-too-brief life."

His cousin Anita Kirpal told the Evening Standard the family was "devastated".

"Sharat was always very witty. He was able to take family jokes and make them work with a wide audience," she said.

Mr Sardana collapsed at the home of his 82-year-old father, Om, whom he had looked after since the death of his mother Raj, one of the UK's first female Indian doctors.

He joined the BBC's script editing scheme after graduating from Queen Mary and Westfield, University of London.

He never forgot that comedy should be funny first and provocative second
Jon Plowman
BBC Comedy

He teamed up with fellow writer and ex-classmate Richard Pinto to create the award-winning Goodness Gracious Me sketch show - first for radio and then television.

The show quickly gained popularity for skits including a father who claimed everyone important - including Superman and members of the Royal Family - had to be an Indian and "The Coopers" - Anglo-Asians who shunned their ethnic roots.

The writing team then moved to independent production company Hat Trick Productions.

The Kumars was an indirect spin-off and was a mix of family sitcom and celebrity interviews. It ran for seven series until 2006 and won an International Emmy.

Writing in the Guardian, Bhaskar described his friend as a "prodigiously gifted comedy writer and producer who helped revolutionise the perception of Asians in Britain".

Jon Plowman, executive producer of BBC Comedy, said: "It's a very sad day for comedy to lose a writer who managed to help comedy break through in the way that Goodness Gracious Me did.

"Sharat began his career at the BBC as a very insightful and enthusiastic script editor and went on to co-create, with his writing partner Richard Pinto, the ground-breaking comedy that gave us the British Asian perspective on the world.

"He never forgot that comedy should be funny first and provocative second.

"This is a truly shocking loss."

EastEnders actress Nina Wadia, who also appeared in Goodness Gracious Me, said a "genuinely unique talent" had been lost.

"My heart goes out to his family.

"The time we spent creating something new and special and bigger than ourselves was a privilege I'll always treasure," she said.

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